Impractical Comforts & Practical Costs

In my opinion, one practical thing I believe young people can do to power their growth isn’t considered practical at all by most people:

Move out of your parents home as soon as possible.

If practicality is defined as “enjoying as much comfort and security as possible with the resources spent” then this isn’t practical. But if we define practicality as “enjoying as much BENFIT as possible with the resources spent” then this is very practical. Growth is a benefit better than comfort. Independence and strength will secure you more than your childhood bedroom. Learning how to navigate daily life wisely and gaining confidence with your decisions is worth more than the short-term savings.

Getting out of childhood bubbles, childhood comforts, attitudes, securities, and concerns, puts us in a better place to develop the two things I believe we should seek: character (the quality of the kind of person you are) and capability (having the skills, know-how, and strength to do necessary tasks).

In my experience this has been one of the best decisions of my life, and it has also led to a much less comfortable standard of living. My parents provided a great environment to live and I’m glad I was given a standard to aim for but paying my own bills, scrambling to avoid foreclosure, getting my water cut off, having no food to eat, sleeping on the floor, not having a car, trying to make ends meet, failing, trying again, trying to do the right thing, failing, trying again, trying to remain faithful, failing, trying again, trying to be wise, failing, trying again, trying to be loving and kind and wise and everything a man is supposed to be, while also being responsible to pay for my own life, to find a way to afford the life I want or reduce the things I want, these are experiences that have taught me a few things. Mainly these three:

1. There is a cost to everything. – I was shielded from the cost by my parents, so no matter how much I knew this intellectually, the fact that I didn’t have to pay for most things shielded me from the full extent of this lesson. When you’re on your own, you don’t eat if you can’t afford the cost, you don’t go to certain places, or do certain things if you can’t afford it. So you now work for it and you learn to prioritize what to spend your time, money, and energy on.

2. Be grateful for the people who pay costs for you no matter how imperfect. – I see so many people being highly critical of their parents or grandparents or of different people who actually make their life possible. It is extreme pride to not acknowledge that the person who feeds you, puts a roof over your head, or gives you an opportunity doesn’t care or understand. It’s extreme selfishness to resent people who make your life possible yet continue to live off their goodness. If you really can’t stand them, if you really think they’re unwise, or mean, or don’t understand, don’t put up with it – but don’t have them pay for your costs too – that’s hypocritical. Besides, if you really know better than them, then you should be able to pay for your own life, because you believe you know better than the people who managed to pay the cost for your life and their own.

3. It’s ok to struggle for your dreams, but you struggle for it, don’t expect others to. – It’s ok to have a hard time, you’ll get stronger. It’s ok to be uncomfortable, you’ll be more adaptable. It’s ok to have nothing at the moment, you’ll live simpler. It’s ok to be embarrassed, you’ll learn your lesson. It’s ok to try and fail, at the very least you’ll know what Not to try next time. It’s ok to let others down, just be sure to get back up and take them up with you. Success doesn’t come from simply avoiding mistakes. It comes with pursuing whatever it takes, which may include minimizing mistakes, or the painful process of rising above consequences, whatever it is, it includes learning and grit.

When I was younger I had so many high-minded opinions of the way life should be and how people should behave. I realize now that I had the luxury of being high-minded. I held my head high because others held theirs low as they plowed the earth that would bring me food so to speak. It was prideful because even as I argued my thoughts I failed to see that the very people I was trying to defeat were the ones most concerned for my success.

I could be critical because I didn’t have to pay the daily time, money, and energy costs of having a place to stay, food to eat, electricity, and other basics. In other words, I was literally free to be a critic. This is also why I was a very bad critic because I know now that I was a free-loading critic. Talk about having no credibility.

Understanding the cost, being grateful for the people who pay the cost, removes the pride of high-mindedness and replaces it with gratitude. And accepting the challenge of struggle puts us in a place to go back and work for our high-minded dreams, but this time paying for them ourselves, because, again, if we really know better, if we really are smarter or wiser, then we should be able to make that better life for ourselves, and besides, they are our dreams after all.
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The Call

If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone
– from Ekla Cholo Re

 

“It’s the mystery of the calling. You just know it’s right.” One of the friars at the San Agustin church told us after I asked him what made him want to join the order. For some reason I understood exactly what he meant. In a world that needs an assurance for each step of the way, and needs so much external validation to decide on what’s right, it was refreshing to hear someone say that. Much of life’s most amazing things won’t be delivered in exact formulas or black and white. The process of things like love, purpose, and growth are filled with experiences that don’t feel anything like love, purpose, and growth. Sometimes they feel like the opposite. Yet despite our feelings it is those who respond to these mysterious calls and persevere towards love, purpose, and growth, even as their journey takes unexpected turns, as all journeys do, who actually enjoy the fruits of each.

And if we don’t respond? We’ll miss it obviously. Too many people think that we can wish things to being. That we can have great lives from simply agreeing to good ideas, that we can build a great career by sharing articles, that our relationships will last simply because we hold a certain opinion. A real response is an action not a sentiment. It’s not just saying “I’m sorry.” It’s contrition. If you don’t know what that word means look it up. It’s not just liking an article. It’s living it out. It’s not just listing faith goals or claiming things. It’s pursuing them.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that we can lose things. It’s a good lesson to learn. When we don’t respond to our calling, we’ll miss it, maybe even lose it.

What’s the secret to pursuing a call when the process of that call seems difficult? Trust the one calling you. This is where faith comes in. Every time I feel discouraged, feel like a failure, or just completely perplexed, I stop trying to process my way out of things, I stay still and listen for His voice. Like with the disciple Peter, Christ’s voice leads us on to walk on rough seas, and as long as we look to Him, we will not sink beneath the many many calls drowning us with expectations of us.

The secret to pursuing your call when it’s difficult, when it’s dark and uncertain, is to remember the Call is not so much about the WHAT, but about the WHO behind it, and when uncertainty surrounds your WHAT, fix your eyes on the WHO.

This is also why the WHO is immensely important to get right. Too bad that sometimes the only way to learn this is the hard way.
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Thoughts on Freedom & True Friendship

A little more than a year ago, on my way to join my family on our annual beach retreat, I struck a conversation with my parents’ driver of over 2 decades, Mang Manny, and explained to him the pillars of democracy. I told him of what happened in France years ago, when power and wealth were so unevenly divided between the king (government) and church having the most and the people having the least (sound familiar?). I told him that with this kind of system, when power is too consolidated in the hands of the few, it becomes not just the interest but lifelong pursuit of the incumbents to make sure they don’t lose that power, instead of doing the right thing and em-powering others. To empower means to impart power into someone else. In the case of France, the people who were suffering decided enough was enough and revolted, leading to one of the bloodiest periods of their history, but in the process bringing to the world democracy – a system of governance that was for the people, of the people, by the people, where representation was to be equal, and had the purpose of promoting its three foundational principles: liberty, equality, and fraternity.

It was an awesome idea. It was radical in a time when people thought rulers had diving right – or God-given rulership, and it was truly empowering for now the common man not only had a say but a share. It was also purposefully balanced: yes, men were equal in the sense that we ALL have the right to shaping our own lives and all free to determine our own paths, yet this freedom was also checked by the idea of fraternity or brotherhood. We’re all equally free but also equally responsible for our neighbor.

Fast-forward to today, and I wonder how many of the silly people who say “I can do what I want. It’s a free country.” really understand what they mean. To most people, their understanding of democracy stands on one pillar: liberty. No wonder they do not really care for their freedom or the freedom of others because as soon as their freedom is shaken, their idea of what a free country should offer is ruined. No wonder there’s so much entitlement too. If all democracy stands for is “do what I want” then anything that prevents that is a crime.

But there’s also equality, that no matter how rich or poor, or how different, or how disadvantaged, that each person was to get proper representation. There’s also fraternity that we’re supposed to use our freedom to strengthen the third pillar of being a family.

I once explained what Freedom means in an article I wrote for women. You can read the full post here.

But the simple explanation is this:

The origins of the word “free” come from a word that means “loved”. In the olden days, when the privileged had slaves, those who were part of the family, were considered “not in bondage” or “pri” which meant “beloved”.

To be free in those days meant that you were loved, and because you were loved, you could enjoy the privileges of a loved one. Unlike the slaves who were bound to their limitations, you were unhindered.

You see, the idea of being “free” was never about just being able to do what one wanted, where one wanted, when one wanted, how one wanted. It was about enjoying the privileges of being the beloved.

Freedom was a privilege not an entitlement. That’s a major mindset change. In a world full of entitlements and right-claiming, going back to the definition of the word “freedom” reminds us that it was a privilege bestowed upon us and by clinging to our bestower we enjoyed more freedoms or privileges. When someone approaches something as  a privilege, one values it and protects it. When someone approaches something as an entitlement, one claims it without necessarily having to pay the cost for it – it’s already his after all.

No wonder we see people who claim rights and rally for things yet are not willing to look into the true cost and not willing to undergo the suffering that brings us the privileges of freedom.

As I studied this word freedom and its root “pri” I was led to another much watered-down word: Friend.

The word Freedom and the word Friend both come from the idea of being loved.

How awesome is that?

When we go back to original definitions, we find how powerful love is: it was more than a feeling, more than butterflies in the stomach, or the light-headedness of excitement, or attraction. Love brought tangible benefits with it. To be loved by someone amazing brought privileges others couldn’t enjoy. To have a true friend meant to enjoy privileges he or she brought. To be a true friend meant being someone who brought privileges too because you were considered favored, you were special.

I say all this to communicate:

True freedom means being a true friend. It means taking your liberty and spending it on fraternity. It means taking the money your free to spend any way you want, and spending it in such a way that others are made better. It means taking the time you can use in any way, and scheduling in such a way that lives benefit. It means taking free speech and speaking out against injustice and promoting the right values. It means taking the right to be angry yet forgiving. It means taking the right to own things but being free to let go so that others too may enjoy. It means taking your freedoms and making something amazing out of it.

A mature person is someone who understands this and lives this out.

I see many imprisoned people around me. They are imprisoned by their materialism, imprisoned by their religion (when God is love and to be loved is to be free), by their superstition, imprisoned by fears and false securities, imprisoned by the need to be someone. Instead, I encourage you, like I encourage every young person I interact with, take your freedom, and use it to make the people around you better. It is not so important that people look at you and say, “He was a great man.” Instead let it be said, “Because of him we became better. Because of him we became great.”

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